The Meaning of Acts 21:37 Explained

Acts 21:37

KJV: And as Paul was to be led into the castle, he said unto the chief captain, May I speak unto thee? Who said, Canst thou speak Greek?

YLT: And Paul being about to be led into the castle, saith to the chief captain, 'Is it permitted to me to say anything unto thee?' and he said, 'Greek dost thou know?

Darby: But as he was about to be led into the fortress, Paul says to the chiliarch, Is it allowed me to say something to thee? And he said, Dost thou know Greek?

ASV: And as Paul was about to be brought into the castle, he saith unto the chief captain, May I say something unto thee? And he said, Dost thou know Greek?

What does Acts 21:37 Mean?

Study Notes

chief
(Greek - χιλίαρχος , the Roman tribune). There were six such "chief captains" in each legion of 6000 men.

Verse Meaning

"In this first of Paul"s five defenses, Luke"s apologetic interests come to the fore in highlighting the nonpolitical character of Christianity (contrary to other messianic movements of the day, cf. Acts 21:38) and in presenting Paul"s mandate to the Gentiles as being the major reason for Jewish opposition to the gospel (cf. Acts 22:10-22)." [1]

Context Summary

Acts 21:27-40 - Facing A Bigoted Mob
Four days passed and there seemed a hope that, as the number of pilgrims grew less, Paul might escape recognition till his vow was fulfilled. In fulfilling it he was required to live with four paupers in a chamber of the Temple, to pay for sixteen sacrificial animals and the accompanying meat offerings on their behalf, and to stand with them while the priest offered lambs and rams on their behalf.
But as the ceremonies were approaching completion, he was recognized by Jews from Ephesus and other cities of Asia-perhaps Alexander the coppersmith was one of them-and a cry of hatred and horror was raised. They had seen the Ephesian Trophimus walking with him in the streets of Jerusalem, and supposed that Paul had taken him into the holy precincts. The punishment for that crime was death. They therefore seized him and forced him through the Beautiful Gate and down the fifteen steps, that they might kill him outside the Temple. This outburst attracted the notice of the Roman garrison in the neighboring Castle of Antonia, and Lysias with his soldiers forced his way through the throng, rescued Paul from his would-be murderers, and bore him beyond their reach. God had other work for the Apostle yet to do. [source]

Chapter Summary: Acts 21

1  Paul calls at the house of Philip, whose daughters prophesy
10  Agabus, foretelling what should befall him at Jerusalem,
13  he will not be dissuaded from going thither
17  He comes to Jerusalem;
27  where he is apprehended, and in great danger, but by the chief captain is rescued;
37  and requests, and is permitted to speak to the people

Greek Commentary for Acts 21:37

May I say something unto thee? [Ει εχεστιν μοι ειπειν τι προς σε]
On this use of ει — ei in a direct question, see note on Acts 1:6. The calm self-control of Paul in the presence of this mob is amazing. His courteous request to Lysias was in Greek to the chiliarch‘s amazement. [source]
Dost thou know Greek? [ελληνιστι γινωσκεισ]
Old Greek adverb in ι — ̇i from ελληνιζω — Hellēnizō meaning “in Greek.” “Do you know it in Greek?” In the N.T. only here and John 19:20. Art thou not then the Egyptian? (Ουκ αρα συ ει ο Αιγυπτιοσ — Ouk ara su ei ho Aiguptioṡ). Expects the answer Yes and αρα — ara argues the matter (therefore). The well-known (ο — ho) Egyptian who had given the Romans so much trouble. Stirred up to sedition First aorist active participle of αναστατοω — anastatoō a late verb from αναστατος — anastatos outcast, and so to unsettle, to stir up, to excite, once known only in lxx and Acts 17:6 (which see); Acts 21:38; Galatians 5:12, but now found in several papyri examples with precisely this sense to upset. Of the Assassins (των σικαριων — tōn sikariōn). Latin word sicarius, one who carried a short sword σιχα — sica under his cloak, a cutthroat. Josephus uses this very word for bands of robbers under this Egyptian (War II. 17, 6 and 13, 5; Ant. XX. 8, 10). Josephus says that there were 30,000 who gathered on the Mount of Olives to see the walls of Jerusalem fall down and not merely 4,000 as Lysias does here. But Lysias may refer to the group that were armed thus (banditti) the core of the mob of 30,000. Lysias at once saw by Paul‘s knowledge of Greek that he was not the famous Egyptian who led the Assassins and escaped himself when Felix attacked and slew the most of them. [source]
Art thou not then the Egyptian? [Ουκ αρα συ ει ο Αιγυπτιοσ]
Expects the answer Yes and αρα — ara argues the matter (therefore). The well-known (ο — ho) Egyptian who had given the Romans so much trouble. [source]
Stirred up to sedition [αναστατωσας]
First aorist active participle of αναστατοω — anastatoō a late verb from αναστατος — anastatos outcast, and so to unsettle, to stir up, to excite, once known only in lxx and Acts 17:6 (which see); Acts 21:38; Galatians 5:12, but now found in several papyri examples with precisely this sense to upset. Of the Assassins (των σικαριων — tōn sikariōn). Latin word sicarius, one who carried a short sword σιχα — sica under his cloak, a cutthroat. Josephus uses this very word for bands of robbers under this Egyptian (War II. 17, 6 and 13, 5; Ant. XX. 8, 10). Josephus says that there were 30,000 who gathered on the Mount of Olives to see the walls of Jerusalem fall down and not merely 4,000 as Lysias does here. But Lysias may refer to the group that were armed thus (banditti) the core of the mob of 30,000. Lysias at once saw by Paul‘s knowledge of Greek that he was not the famous Egyptian who led the Assassins and escaped himself when Felix attacked and slew the most of them. [source]
Of the Assassins [των σικαριων]
Latin word sicarius, one who carried a short sword σιχα — sica under his cloak, a cutthroat. Josephus uses this very word for bands of robbers under this Egyptian (War II. 17, 6 and 13, 5; Ant. XX. 8, 10). Josephus says that there were 30,000 who gathered on the Mount of Olives to see the walls of Jerusalem fall down and not merely 4,000 as Lysias does here. But Lysias may refer to the group that were armed thus (banditti) the core of the mob of 30,000. Lysias at once saw by Paul‘s knowledge of Greek that he was not the famous Egyptian who led the Assassins and escaped himself when Felix attacked and slew the most of them. [source]
Canst thou speak [γινώσκεις]
Lit., dost thou know? So Rev.sa40 [source]

Reverse Greek Commentary Search for Acts 21:37

Acts 1:6 Asked [ηρωτων]
Imperfect active, repeatedly asked before Jesus answered. Lord (κυριε — kurie). Here not in the sense of “sir” (Matthew 21:30), but to Jesus as Lord and Master as often in Acts (Acts 19:5, Acts 19:10, etc.) and in prayer to Jesus (Acts 7:59). Dost thou restore The use of ει — ei in an indirect question is common. We have already seen its use in direct questions (Matthew 12:10; Luke 13:23 which see note for discussion), possibly in imitation of the Hebrew (frequent in the lxx) or as a partial condition without conclusion. See also Acts 7:1; Acts 19:2; Acts 21:37; Acts 22:25. The form of the verb αποκατιστανω — apokathistanō is late (also αποκατισταω — apokathistaō) omega form for the old and common αποκατιστημι — apokathistēmi double compound, to restore to its former state. As a matter of fact the Messianic kingdom for which they are asking is a political kingdom that would throw off the hated Roman yoke. It is a futuristic present and they are uneasy that Jesus may yet fail to fulfil their hopes. Surely here is proof that the eleven apostles needed the promise of the Father before they began to spread the message of the Risen Christ. They still yearn for a political kingdom for Israel even after faith and hope have come back. They need the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit (John 14-16) and the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4.). [source]
Acts 1:6 Dost thou restore [ει αποκατιστανεις]
The use of ει — ei in an indirect question is common. We have already seen its use in direct questions (Matthew 12:10; Luke 13:23 which see note for discussion), possibly in imitation of the Hebrew (frequent in the lxx) or as a partial condition without conclusion. See also Acts 7:1; Acts 19:2; Acts 21:37; Acts 22:25. The form of the verb αποκατιστανω — apokathistanō is late (also αποκατισταω — apokathistaō) omega form for the old and common αποκατιστημι — apokathistēmi double compound, to restore to its former state. As a matter of fact the Messianic kingdom for which they are asking is a political kingdom that would throw off the hated Roman yoke. It is a futuristic present and they are uneasy that Jesus may yet fail to fulfil their hopes. Surely here is proof that the eleven apostles needed the promise of the Father before they began to spread the message of the Risen Christ. They still yearn for a political kingdom for Israel even after faith and hope have come back. They need the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit (John 14-16) and the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4.). [source]
Acts 14:11 In the speech of Lycaonia [Λυκαονιστι]
Adverb from verb λυκαονιζω — lukaoniz to use the language of Lycaonia found here alone, but formed regularly like Εβραιστι — Ebraisti (John 5:2), ελληνιστι — Hellēnisti (Acts 21:37), ωμαιστι — Rōmaisti (John 19:20). Paul was speaking in Greek, of course, but the excitement of the crowd over the miracle made them cry out in their native tongue which Paul and Barnabas did not understand. Hence it was not till preparations for offering sacrifice to them had begun that Paul understood the new role in which he and Barnabas were held. In the likeness of men (ομοιωτεντες αντρωποις — homoiōthentes anthrōpois). First aorist passive participle of ομοιω — homoiō to liken, with the associative instrumental case. In this primitive state the people hold to the old Graeco-Roman mythology. The story of Baucis and Philemon tells how Jupiter (Zeus) and Mercury (Hermes) visited in human form the neighbouring region of Phrygia (Ovid, Meta. VIII. 626). Jupiter (Zeus) had a temple in Lystra. [source]
Acts 21:34 When he could not know [μη δυναμενου αυτου γνωναι]
Genitive absolute of present middle participle of δυναμαι — dunamai with negative μη — mē and second aorist active infinitive of γινωσκω — ginōskō The certainty (το ασπαλες — to asphales). Neuter articular adjective from α — a privative and σπαλλω — sphallō to make totter or fall. Old word, in the N.T. only in Acts 21:34; Acts 22:30; Acts 25:26; Philemon 3:1; Hebrews 6:19. Into the castle Koiné{[28928]}š word from παρεμβαλλω — paremballō to cast in by the side of, to assign soldiers a place, to encamp (see note on Luke 19:43). So παρεμβολη — parembolē comes to mean an interpolation, then an army drawn up (Hebrews 11:34), but mainly an encampment (Hebrews 13:11, Hebrews 13:13), frequent in Polybius and lxx. So here barracks of the Roman soldiers in the tower of Antonia as in Acts 21:37; Acts 21:22: Acts 21:24; Acts 23:10, Acts 23:16, Acts 23:32. [source]
Acts 21:34 Into the castle [εις την παρεμβολην]
Koiné{[28928]}š word from παρεμβαλλω — paremballō to cast in by the side of, to assign soldiers a place, to encamp (see note on Luke 19:43). So παρεμβολη — parembolē comes to mean an interpolation, then an army drawn up (Hebrews 11:34), but mainly an encampment (Hebrews 13:11, Hebrews 13:13), frequent in Polybius and lxx. So here barracks of the Roman soldiers in the tower of Antonia as in Acts 21:37; Acts 21:22: Acts 21:24; Acts 23:10, Acts 23:16, Acts 23:32. [source]

What do the individual words in Acts 21:37 mean?

Being about then to be brought into the barracks - Paul says to the commander If is it permitted to me to say something to you Then he was saying Greek do you know
Μέλλων τε εἰσάγεσθαι εἰς τὴν παρεμβολὴν Παῦλος λέγει τῷ χιλιάρχῳ Εἰ ἔξεστίν μοι εἰπεῖν τι πρὸς σέ δὲ ἔφη Ἑλληνιστὶ γινώσκεις

Μέλλων  Being  about 
Parse: Verb, Present Participle Active, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root: μέλλω  
Sense: to be about.
εἰσάγεσθαι  to  be  brought 
Parse: Verb, Present Infinitive Middle or Passive
Root: εἰσάγω  
Sense: to lead in.
εἰς  into 
Parse: Preposition
Root: εἰς  
Sense: into, unto, to, towards, for, among.
παρεμβολὴν  barracks 
Parse: Noun, Accusative Feminine Singular
Root: παρεμβολή  
Sense: an encampment.
  - 
Parse: Article, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root:  
Sense: this, that, these, etc.
Παῦλος  Paul 
Parse: Noun, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root: Παῦλος  
Sense: Paul was the most famous of the apostles and wrote a good part of the NT, the 4 Pauline epistles.
λέγει  says 
Parse: Verb, Present Indicative Active, 3rd Person Singular
Root: λέγω 
Sense: to say, to speak.
τῷ  to  the 
Parse: Article, Dative Masculine Singular
Root:  
Sense: this, that, these, etc.
χιλιάρχῳ  commander 
Parse: Noun, Dative Masculine Singular
Root: χιλίαρχος  
Sense: a chiliarch, the commander of a thousand soldiers.
ἔξεστίν  is  it  permitted 
Parse: Verb, Present Indicative Active, 3rd Person Singular
Root: ἔξεστι 
Sense: it is lawful.
μοι  to  me 
Parse: Personal / Possessive Pronoun, Dative 1st Person Singular
Root: ἐγώ  
Sense: I, me, my.
εἰπεῖν  to  say 
Parse: Verb, Aorist Infinitive Active
Root: λέγω  
Sense: to speak, say.
τι  something 
Parse: Interrogative / Indefinite Pronoun, Accusative Neuter Singular
Root: τὶς  
Sense: a certain, a certain one.
ἔφη  he  was  saying 
Parse: Verb, Imperfect Indicative Active, 3rd Person Singular
Root: φημί  
Sense: to make known one’s thoughts, to declare.
Ἑλληνιστὶ  Greek 
Parse: Adverb
Root: Ἑλληνιστί  
Sense: in Greek, the Greek language.
γινώσκεις  do  you  know 
Parse: Verb, Present Indicative Active, 2nd Person Singular
Root: γινώσκω  
Sense: to learn to know, come to know, get a knowledge of perceive, feel.

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